Original Airdate: April 12, 1974
Josh Lang shows his ability with dolphins
Sam Strangis and Donald R. Boyle
William Shatner as Josh Lang
Warren Kemmerling as Ted Haldane
Quinn Redeker as Calvin Billings
Rodolfo Hoyos as Ernesto Arruza
Anne Schedeen as Tina Larsen
Joseph di Reda as 1st Deputy
Ron Stokes as 2nd M.P.
Aaron Mitchell as 2nd Deputy
Chas. Floyd Johnson as 3rd M.P.
Trent Dolan as Technician
Mary Rings as Millie
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Josh Lang experiences physiological problems upon returning from space. Steve attempts to salvage his friend's career while also trying to save his life.
While Josh Lang, a fellow NASA astronaut and friend of Steve Austin, is orbiting the Earth, his brain is affected by an electrical field which causes him to behave in an increasingly bizarre manner. Following Lang’s return to Earth, Steve meets him at the Ocean World Amusement Park and offers to work with him in the hope that the condition is only temporary and can be overcome so that his career as an astronaut can continue. However, Lang shows no signs of improvement. When he climbs an electricity pylon calling the name of someone called “Andy” (even though no one is there), Steve has to rescue him using his bionic powers. He concludes that Lang is unfit to fly and should be ‘grounded’ in order to receive appropriate medical attention.
When Lang becomes agitated and violent after he detects what he is convinced is a programming error on the NASA computer, Lang is placed under Military Police guard in a NASA hospital. However, at night he slips out unnoticed by disabling the guard and swapping places with him. He then leaves a note for Steve, asking him to again meet him at the Ocean World Park. When Steve arrives, Lang demonstrates telepathic skills by communicating with the park’s dolphins and making them jump out of the water at will. He then makes the extraordinary proposal that dolphins should be involved in the space program. Steve persuades Lang to accompany him back to NASA headquarters where he puts the dolphin proposal to the flight director, Calvin Billings. Unsurprisingly, Billings completely rejects the idea and then asks to speak to Lang alone. While Steve is out of the room, Lang renders Billings unconscious with his psychic powers and escapes once more.
Looking through Lang’s NASA file, Steve notices that the beneficiary of an insurance policy is an Ernesto Arruza of Redman, Texas – Lang’s hometown. Guessing that ‘Andy’ was related to Mr. Arruza and that Lang will travel to Texas, Steve goes to see Arruza. He confirms that Andy was his son and that Andy had been close friends with Lang at the time Andy was accidentally killed while the boys were playing in a nearby power station. Andy was ten years old at the time. Meanwhile, having been alerted that Lang may be in the area, the local police are also looking for him. When he is confronted by a deputy sheriff, Lang attempts to render him unconscious but, with the power of his brain increasing, Lang inadvertently kills the deputy in the process. Obsessed with the memory of his childhood friend, Lang then climbs the towers at the power station in an attempt to relive Andy’s death. Steve attempts to persuade Lang to come down, telling him that he had correctly identified the error on the NASA computer. When Lang refuses to do so, Steve climbs up after him. Lang again resists and starts to incapacitate Steve. However, the electrical energy from his brain reaches fatal levels, and Lang collapses and dies in the process. Lang will be given a "hero's funeral," and Steve says goodbye to his old friend.
NASA and Bionics
The scenes of Oscar fully supporting NASA's efforts to test, and even film, Steve's bionic powers is something new. Many other episodes portray Oscar's unwillingness to part with the knowledge of Steve's bionics, even to other employees of the US government (see, for example, his hesitation to allow Steve to go on the rescue mission in "The Rescue of Athena One"). The general impression Oscar gives is that specific knowledge of bionics is reserved, as much as possible, only to those under his direct command. Given the relatively lax security on NASA personnel records that we see in this episode, Goldman's caution seems wise.
In "The Rescue of Athena One," Steve makes no mention of his bionic failure to the Flight Surgeon, despite the fact being directly relevant to the success of the mission. There, he makes oblique reference to his bionic problems that only Oscar could understand. But here, Oscar lets NASA go over Steve with a fine-toothed comb — when there is no reason given for any medical tests.
The explanation may rest in simple story progression, evolution, and for dramatic purposes, a big reveal. Oscar may have decided to expand "the circle of trust," for reasons that may benefit the OSI. NASA's equipment and/or expertise may have been uniquely suited to acquiring comprehensive data on Steve in advance of future bionic replacements. The clear shock on the faces of the NASA people indicate this is not something they were prepared for.
Lang: (during spacewalk) Mission control, I got some news for ya that's gonna shock ya, so you'd better sit down. Listen very carefully: The Earth is flat, gentlemen. That's right; it's flat as a table! (chuckles) Hey, wait a minute; there's an elephant holding up the table! And... there's something holding up the elephant... Wait; it's a rhinoceros holding up the elephant. Hey, wait a minute; there's such a... big cloud cover, I can't make out what's holding up the rhinoceros. It's - wait, it's - Oh, no, oh, ah, gentlemen I, I, I, I don't know how to tell you this; I'm just gonna have to... come right out and say it: the table, the elephant, the rhinoceros are all being held up by a beautiful, a gorgeous 20-year-old girl. There goes the old ego, amongst other things...(chuckles some more)
Ted Haldane: How do you do it? You were doing 66!
Steve: You know as well as I do. Better!
Ted Haldane: Nah, I mean, how do you know when your stride is right?
Steve: Well, I feel a sort of… natural rhythm in my upper body.
Ted Haldane: Don't your legs ever run out from under ya?
Steve: Not any more.
Oscar: Running, using your bionic capacities: it's all instinct now, isn't it, Steve?
Lang: Hey, old buddy, you're... you're kind of special.
Steve: That's what they keep saying.
Lang: With your bionic strength and my "far out" brain, we're superior types. Think about it, Steve. We're the beginning of a whole new species.
Lang: Do you realize what we could learn if we send one of those dolphins up into space into that electrical field? Why, there's no... mystery in the universe that you and I couldn't solve!
Oscar: Josh is right; there is a mistake in the computer program.
Steve: And his "sun-as-the-origin-of-space" theory?
Oscar: Completely valid. I've got all the printouts here to prove it.
- In Calvin's office, there is a model of the Space Shuttle with rocket boosters and white external tank on his table. This is interesting because the first shuttle orbiter, the Columbia, was not completed until 1979, and this episode was from 1974 (It is, however, quite possible that NASA let them borrow a prototype model of the Enterprise, which was unveiled in 1976, and whose design would no doubt have been nearly finalized within 2 years prior to launch. If this is the case, Star Trek fans shouldn't get too excited, as at this point in time, it was probably not yet called, "Enterprise." According to Wikipedia , "Construction began on the first orbiter on June 4, 1974. Designated OV-101, it was originally planned to be named Constitution and unveiled on Constitution Day, September 17, 1976. A write-in campaign by Trekkies to President Gerald Ford asked that the orbiter be named after the Starship Enterprise, featured on the television show Star Trek.")
- Also visible on Calvin’s wall are models of the Lockheed LS-200 Star Clipper (a prototype Shuttle), an Apollo launch escape tower,an Agena-D rocket stage,and an Apollo CSM,as well as Apollo 13 and Apollo 8 mission patches, a copy of On the Shoulders of Titans (NASA’s official history of Project Gemini), and photos depicting a launch gantry at Cape Canaveral and what appears to be the Mariner 9 Mars orbital probe,
- It is unclear exactly what Josh’s mission was. The stock footage at the beginning of the episode depicts a Gemini spacewalk, but the episode presumably takes place in 1974, by which time Gemini was no longer around. Perhaps his mission was to Skylab or was a solo Apollo Applications mission.
- Fun fact: During the scene when Josh is ripping up the calculations concerning the next space mission, at the top of one sheet is a part reading MET = 870 h. Whatever the next mission is,it’s due to stay in space for 36 days.
- During a series of physical tests, Steve tops out at 66 miles per hour. Whether this is his actual maximum or not is made a little ambiguous by Lee Majors' reaction shot. Once he hits 66, a buzzer goes off, and then he seems to give a self-satisfied smirk, as if to indicate he's beaten an old record, or achieved a desired speed.
- The NASA doctor, after Steve finishes on the treadmill, becomes one of the few characters in the franchise to broach the topic of logistics in the use of Steve's bionic limbs, such as how Steve is able to maintain his balance without his legs running out from underneath him. Oscar and Steve imply that this was indeed an issue early on, but now Steve has been able to develop a natural rhythm. Retroactively, this is a very important few lines of dialogue in that it explains why it is necessary to show Jaime Sommers and, much later, Michael Austin training to run, both on a treadmill and in the field.
- In the mid-1990s, William Shatner hosted a TV Guide special that addressed science fiction television, including the bionic shows.
- The plot of this episode bears a superficial resemblance to the second pilot episode shot for the original Star Trek series, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (and the first to feature Shatner in his role as Captain James Kirk). In this episode, an Enterprise crew member (played by Gary Lockwood) gains superior and dangerous mental powers after encountering mysterious radiation in outer space, as Josh Lang does in "Burning Bright".
- Apparently space walks expose astronauts to electrical fields that make their minds go loopy for a time. According to Steve, he experienced it when he did a spacewalk. It's unclear whether he's referring to a spacewalk on one of his moon missions, or the recent spacewalk he conducted in "The Rescue of Athena One".
- The shots of Steve running bionically in the beginning is culled from shots and alternate takes from The Six Million Dollar Man (1973), most notably the "fence run".
- The shot of Steve using a weight lifting machine is a post-zoomed version of a shot from Wine, Women and War. This shot was zoomed to remove Rudy Wells, originally for the show intro, seen here without the intro's graphic overlay treatment.
- The pole vaulting sequence is taken from the previous episode, "The Last of the Fourth of Julys", in which Steve trains for a mission. This causes a continuity error because we see Oscar standing next to the NASA men, watching Steve from a distance, and in the very next shot he's seen walking behind Steve as he pole-vaults.
- Oscar's suit jacket magically changes colors while watching Steve perform a bionic run.